Reading about writing craft

Flower: writing craft

I told myself I wasn’t going to write about writing too often on this blog. Writing about reading about writing is different though, right?

Okay, I know it’s not really different. But this is my blog, and I can write about writing or write about reading about writing too much if I want to.

Now that that’s out of my system (you’d think I was drunk, wouldn’t you? I’m not, I promise), I want to talk about reading books on writing craft.

I wrote for a decade before I realised writing craft books were a thing. Now I love them and I read them all the time. Maybe you don’t. Hey, I’m not judging.

Maybe you don’t even write, and you’re like, Alecia, stop talking about writing. It’s so darned boring. (But you might not have used such polite language.) All I can say to that is sorry, I promise my next post won’t be about writing.

There was a time when I owned nearly every writing craft book in print. (This was before self publishing became more than Lulu.) Now I don’t, but I do have a lot and I’ve read nearly all of them multiple times.

It always surprises me when I talk to other writers and they say they don’t read about writing craft. Sure, there’s a lot of bad information out there and it’s easy to get information overload, but in my opinion there are also some real gems that will cut years off your learning curve. At least, they did mine.

But maybe you’re much smarter than me or have better writing instinct, and you figure out everything about writing on your own. If that’s the case, I’m very happy for you and not in the least bit jealous.

Or maybe you prefer to figure things out on your own, even if it takes longer. That’s perfectly valid too.

But if you’re interested in why I read so many writing craft books and what I think I get out of them, read on.

1. Entertainment

A good book on writing is written by a great writer, and so it almost has to be an entertaining read. At a very minimum, the writing should be excellent. If it isn’t, stop right away because something’s wrong.

Some writing books are hilarious, and not just because I like laughing at examples of terrible writing (though I do).

Some tell entertaining stories, as well.

2. Inspiration

Some writing books make me believe I really can do this.

I understand it’s common for writers to go through phases of thinking their sentences are lamer than an ostrich with a broken ankle. They worry they understand as much about characters as they do about rocket surgery, and their plots work as well as square wheels. (Simile overload? Sorry, now I have been drinking.)

I certainly have these phases.

Sometimes an inspiring writing book is all I need to tow me out of the ditch. I get all kinds of pleasant fantasies while I’m reading writing books.

Fantasies of writing prose so beautiful that it makes microwave ovens weep.

Fantasies of regularly churning out 5,000 words an hour of quality prose.

Fantasies of publishing ten novels a year and hitting the NYT Bestseller List with every one of them.

Fantasies of writing a novel so meaningful and moving that in a hundred years it’s taught in schools and is the only book kids are forced to read that they actually enjoy.

I’m lying. I don’t actually want to publish ten novels a year. I’d rather publish two. Books I’ve written are a bit like cats. I adore cats, but I wouldn’t want to live with more than three at a time because my house would get (even more) full of fur, and I wouldn’t be able to walk to the kitchen in the dark without falling over someone.

3. Learning writing craft

Yes, I do read writing books to learn how to improve my writing. Though it’s secondary, or tertiary, to the other reasons.

I learned a lot by reading novels my whole life, but you can only learn so much about how to make cake by eating it. At some point you need a recipe.

I know that’s not a great analogy because you can see every word in a book by reading it. The problem is that it’s hard to see why they’re all there. Writing craft books can help you with that.

But as I said, maybe you’re smarter than me.


So that’s why I read books about writing. How about you?

Do you read about writing craft in books or on blogs? Why or why not? Any recommendations? If I were to write about my favourite craft books, would you care?

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Forest: reading about writing

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

14 thoughts on “Reading about writing craft”

  1. I think writers ought to read fiction as well as books which intend to inform about the writing craft. Writing is a solitary thing, and not everybody has another pair of eyes with whom they can share their work, and so reading up on what successful writers advise is an asset. Great post! (I lost it at “fantasies of writing prose so beautiful that it makes microwave ovens weep.”)

    1. I totally agree. I wasn’t focussing on that here, but another scary thing is people who try to write fiction when they don’t read it.

      Haha, thanks – I like that line too. Angels weep? Nah, angels have hearts so how hard can it be to make them weep? Microwave ovens, on the other hand – that must be some impressive prose.

  2. I learn a lot by reading in my genre and I have a stack to get through. I don’t read many books about writing, but I read lots of blogs about writing! Stephen King’s On Writing is definitely on my list. I’ll start there and see where it goes πŸ™‚

    1. I love reading blog posts on writing too! Some of them are wonderful, though it is nice to get away from my computer and sit down with an actual book to read about writing.

      I confess On Writing is one of the few I haven’t read. For some reason I have this resistance to reading something everyone says is great. This is why took me so long to read Harry Potter after it first came out. I should just suck it up and read it. I’m sure Stephen King has a lot of wisdom to share, and probably even some I haven’t across in memes yet. πŸ™‚

  3. I had to read a lot of books about writing in college, and thus don’t really do it anymore. But some of them were great! I still think about one, called How to Write a Damn Good Novel, more than the others. It gave me a ton of useful advice, some of which I’ve quoted and paraphrased in my blog. Now, I find I learn best from reading amazing books, and from writing a ton and submitting my work. Anyway, thanks for another great blog post!

    1. I’ve read that book! As I recall, it had some pretty useful stuff in it.

      I can see why you wouldn’t read so many writing books now given you studied them at uni–writing yourself definitely teaches you stuff you don’t learn from reading about writing. πŸ™‚

  4. Great post! I love reading about writing craft (and reading posts about reading about writing). I haven’t read many actual books on the topic because I never knew which ones were worthwhile, but I’ve read a ton of blogs. is one of the best I’ve come across (if you can bear with the ads). Good articles on writing craft but also on plotting, publishing and marketing, anything that an indie needs. is also a good resource.

    Btw, thanks again for the rec, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers was fantastic! I knew that -ing and as were bad ideas in a sentence, but this was the first source that explained why they were bad. πŸ™‚

    I’m totally with you on #2: reading about writing craft is great for motivation. I get that “hey, I can do this!” -feeling too.

    1. I like too! But going there’s dangerous because I can emerge several hours later having swum from post to post. I don’t spend so much time at, but I’ve heard good things.

      I’m really glad you found Self-Editing for Fiction Writers helpful. I agree it’s important that writing “rules” come with explanations, because if you know why you’re following a rule you know when you can safely ignore it.

      Yay for feeling like we can do it! πŸ™‚

  5. I love reading writing craft books, they can be so uplifting! Never mind I often buy ones that have to do with some part of writing I’m struggling with, like I have quite a few on outlining and plotting. I often reread them, especially the uplifting ones. They really do make you think you can do this thing called writing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad it’s not just me who finds writing books uplifting! πŸ™‚

      I feel like I have so many excellent books on plotting, but I’ve found fewer on character that click with me. I don’t know if that’s because character is one of my weaker areas and I don’t recognise pearls of wisdom. Maybe I should read them a few more times.

      We really can do this thing called writing. πŸ™‚

  6. Another interesting post — and I definitely enjoyed the side adventure of WALL-E destroying your index cards. That was painful, but also hilarious.

    “I learned a lot by reading novels my whole life, but you can only learn so much about how to make cake by eating it. At some point you need a recipe.

    I know that’s not a great analogy because you can see every word in a book by reading it. The problem is that it’s hard to see why they’re all there. Writing craft books can help you with that.”

    Those two paragraphs really stood out to me. Very well said! I’m not the biggest fan of writing craft books (I’ve read a few), but these two paragraphs sell me on their importance. Touche, madam, touche.

    1. Why, thank you. Occasionally I do come up with something profound, though it’s usually accidental. πŸ˜‰

      You’re definitely not alone in not being a fan of writing craft books, but I’m glad I could make you think about their importance. Perhaps it’s just a matter of getting the right ones. (Some are truly inane.)

  7. I wrote about writing about reading about writing a few months ago. It’s crazy-making. I said it can “put off the actual writing part of writing your book” but also that it provides you much-needed info about the process, etc. It’s a catch 22. You’ve made some good points here. We really do need to learn things and stuff and so forth but we also need to just write, you know?

    I have a lot of writing books but I don’t read them much anymore. I guess you have to decide when you’re just reading the same thing over and over or you’re getting overwhelmed. You can always return to them. πŸ™‚

    1. Those are great points. It’s easy to feel like you’re being productive when you’re reading about writing craft, and maybe you are… or maybe you’re procrastinating.

      I’ve noticed that the books that really helped me when I was starting out are less helpful now, and some that used to be way over my head are starting to make sense. Perhaps you need to find more advanced books?

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